The concept “switch” is of quite a different order from the concepts “stone,” “table,” and the like. Closer examination shows that the switch, considered as a part of an electric circuit, does not exist when it is in the on position. From the point of view of the circuit, it is not different from the conducting wire which leads to it and the wire which leads away from it. It is merely “more conductor.” Conversely, but similarly, when the switch is off, it does not exist from the point of view of the circuit. It is nothing, a gap between two conductors which, themselves, exist only as conductors when the switch is on. In other words, the switch is not except at the moments of its change of setting, and the concept “switch” has thus a special relation to time. It is related to the notion “change” rather than the notion “object.”

from Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (1979)

Portrait of Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson

Anthropologist, Social Scientist, and Cyberneticist
May 9, 1904 – July 4, 1980

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. In the 1940s, he helped extend systems theory and cybernetics to the social and behavioral sciences. He spent the last decade of his life developing a "meta-science" of epistemology to bring together the various early forms of systems theory developing in different fields of science. His writings include Steps to an Ecology of Mind and Mind and Nature.

Bateson's interest in systems theory and cybernetics forms a thread running through his work. He was one of the original members of the core group of the Macy conferences in Cybernetics, and the later set on Group Processes, where he represented the social and behavioral sciences. Bateson was interested in the relationship of these fields to epistemology. His association with the editor and author Stewart Brand helped to widen his influence. From the 1970s until his last years, a broader audience of university students and educated people working in many fields came to know his thought.


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